Ocado joins 'price promise' price war: what's the catch?


Ocado vanKatie Collins/PA

The complex and confusing world of the supermarket price promise has welcomed a newcomer. This one is rather surprising, because upmarket Ocado has joined the throng.

It promises to price match Tesco, and if a comparison shows you would have spent less at Tesco, you'll have the difference refunded - plus 1p. So does this mean Ocado will always be cheaper?

The deal

As long as you spend over £40 on your shopping, the new tool on Ocado will automatically add up the prices of all participating products in your basket at both Tesco and Ocado. If you would have spent less at Tesco, it will be refunded and you'll get a penny for your trouble. This will come to you as a voucher code that you can use on your next shop.

What is striking is that if there's anything on offer at Tesco, Ocado will match it. This makes it superior to the Waitrose promise, which will only match standard prices at Tesco.

There is, of course, a catch - or rather there's a handful of them.

You'll only get up to £10 refunded on every shop, and you'll then only have 14 days to redeem the voucher. So if there's a big difference you will lose out, and if you don't do a big shop worth delivering every 14 days you, won't get a chance to redeem it. Plus, of course, it is only matching Tesco, and while it is the biggest supermarket, there is some question over whether it is the cheapest.

To add insult to injury it isn't matching everything - just those things which it considers to be identical to things stocked by Tesco Online. Those items which it checks for price matches are marked LPP (Low Price Promise) on the site, and if it doesn't have the logo, then it's anyone's guess who is cheaper.

Will it be cheaper?

So does it mean Ocado will always be cheaper? Clearly not. It means Ocado will be cheaper than Tesco on certain things, up to the value of £10, for those who shop at least once a fortnight... which is a very different thing.

The trouble with all these price matches is that they all have their catches. Sainsbury's, for example, at least compares prices with Asda and Tesco. However, it's only the branded products that get checked - which makes up a small percentage of any really savvy shop.

Tesco, shockingly, introduced a limit to its scheme after customers started taking advantage. It compares prices in Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury's, but has a £10 cap.

Asda has what appears to be the most generous scheme, offering the difference plus 10% if the shop would have been any cheaper at Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Waitrose, Ocado or Tesco. However, that too is capped at £15.

And as anyone who is fickle with their shopping, and hunts around for bargains, knows - the small print and rules and regulations means that by far the majority of the time, wherever you shop, the supermarket will tell you they were the cheapest.

It's hardly surprising that last month, a survey by Market Force found that 82% of shoppers didn't take price matches into account when choosing where to shop, and 47% thought they were just a marketing gimmick.

The long and the short of it is that no-one is always cheaper. You have to do the shopping around yourself, and hunt down the bargains. Alternatively, you can go with convenience - and just accept that on certain things you're going to end up paying over the odds.

High Street casualties

High Street casualties

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